Alford Plea for the Memphis 3

Three boys were convicted at trial in 1993 for killing three second grade boys. There has been question for many years as to whether they had adequate assistance of counsel during their trials, and the parents of one slain boy believe the convicted killers are 100% innocent.

So the question remains, how did these boys, now grown men, plead guilty to get out of prison?

There are several types of pleas that are available in our legal system. An individual can enter into a “Plea in Abeyance”, for instance, that puts the guilty plea “on hold” for a predetermined period of time with specific conditions. Pay your fine, stay out of trouble, and the court will dismiss all charges against you, or enter your guilty plea to a much lesser charge. This is common for traffic violations where the actual conviction becomes a non-moving violation that will not affect licensing or insurance rates.

An Alford Plea is a little different. The individual who enters an Alford plea maintains their innocence. They acknowledge that there is evidence against them, that there is a change (even a likely chance) that they would be convicted of the charges against them, but they maintain that they are innocent.

The court, on the other hand, enters the Alford Plea as guilty, which allows them to sentence the accused (now convicted) individual as though they had been “found” guilty at trial. Let’s be frank, however. The sentencing is agreed upon prior to the entry of the Alford Plea and courts around the country are pretty good at keeping their word. When the Memphis 3 entered their Alford Pleas today, they already knew they would be sentenced to “time served.”

This effectively made them free men. They walked out of the courtroom with unsupervised probation for the next 10 years, but essentially they are free.

They also have the right to proclaim that they are innocent and the court can’t contradict them. When court officials speak of this case, they must acknowledge that the Memphis 3 claim to be innocent.

Ultimately, the deal isn’t perfect for either side. An Alford Plea doesn’t give anyone the satisfaction of “winning” or “proving” anything. The prosecution is robbed of their chance to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these men committed murder. The men do not get the chance to be vindicated.

At least, not yet.

Sources:

Personal Experience

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